I have a 20 year old daughter that is dating a 20 year old male. They have been dating for about 8 months. His childhood was not a good one from what he has told my daughter. I am starting to notice red flags (well in my opinion red flags). It seems over time my daughter is being taken away from us. I feel she is being isolated from us. She still lives at home with us but since dating him, she is with him 24/7. I believe she is also pregnant. I understand being in love and wanting to be together and all that but she is not herself anymore. Just last night we were discussing the holidays with the both of them and he stopped me from talking and said no, my daughter is staying with him at his mom’s (he still lives at home also) Christmas Even and morning and then they will be over for 1 hour Christmas morning. All of her time is with him. If they are not together, he is calling her. If he cannot get a hold of her, he is calling me questioning where she is. He has always been nice to us and our other children. I just feel uneasy about the whole situation. My daughter and I have always been extremely close but since she started dating him, we only talk maybe once or twice a week when she is stopping by to shower and get more clothes to stay with him. (she is not allowed to shower at his house). I am scared for her and the baby if she is pregnant. How do I address this with her? Am I overreacting? What do I do?
I don’t think it’s overreacting to feel concerned at this point. But I want to suggest that you try to stay calm for two reasons. One, because children (of all ages) notoriously are drawn to the things that their parents disapprove of and making a huge scene about this relationship may just strengthen her resolve to be in it. And two, because at 20 years old, it’s entirely possible that they are in that all-consuming relationship phase and that things will mellow out over time.
Ok, so let’s talk about communication and boundaries. The best thing you can do, I think, is to establish open communication with your daughter and boundaries with both your daughter and her boyfriend. Let your daughter know that you are feeling like she’s been distant and that you are really interested in reestablishing your connection. Don’t make it about the boyfriend. Make it about spending time together and bonding. And then draw some clear boundaries. For instance, if she’s going to be living in your house, its not unreasonable to ask her to spend some time with you guys…maybe some shared family meals or something along those lines. This one is tricky because if you push too hard, it may result in her moving out completely. But you’re going to have to accept the fact that she’s an adult and that may happen anyway.
Ok, now with the boyfriend. The next time he calls you to check up on her, let him know that you are not responsible for keeping track of her and that you’d rather he not call you for this reason. Be kind but firm. It’s not appropriate for him to be checking up on her, especially with you. If he had a rough childhood, he may be dealing with all kinds of trust and control issues. These do not make him a bad person but it does make it that much more important for you to maintain firm and loving boundaries with both of them.
If you can get the lines of communication running more smoothly with your daughter, then maybe you can find a way to address some of your concerns in a way that does not make her feel like you’re trying to run her life. You can have healthy relationship discussions in a more general way. The control issues may work themselves out once the intensity of the relationship dies down or they may get worse. Helping to equip your daughter with the tools she needs to recognize unhealthy relationship elements and deal with them is the best thing you can do for her as a mother.
I'm including a diagram from the-lookout.org.uk for your consideration. As you can see, some of the behaviors that you’re noting as red flags do fall into the unhealthy category but that may simply be a signal that there are things that need to be worked out, not that the relationship is ultimately bad or doomed.
Wishing you luck and patience.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.